To completely understand Net Neutrality aka Open Internet rules and their implications, we must visit history a little. There are many important historical milestones that led to the development of the Net Neutrality rules. We will cover only the main historical milestones concerning Net Neutrality in this discussion.
1934 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt ratified the Communications Act of 1934. It replaced the Federal Radio Commission with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and transferred regulation of interstate telephone services to the newly formed FCC instead of the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 established wired and broadcast(wireless) communications as common carrier. Common carrier is a person or company that offers its services to the general public under license or authority by a regulatory body (the FCC).
Examples of common carriers:
Telephone service providers
1996 - President Bill Clinton amended the Communications Act of 1934 with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. For the first time, Internet services were included in with broadcasting and telecommunications legislation.
Main goals (that apply to this discussion) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996:
E-Rate/ Universal Service Fund – School and Library infrastructure upgrade discounts/ incentives
Communications Decency Act
Deregulation of converging broadcasting and telecommunications markets to foster competition
Prevents restrictions between carriers and new entrants from denying interconnection to their networks. Meaning AT&T, Verizon, etc., can’t deny connection to their networks.
Section 706 - Advanced telecommunications incentives – FCC regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications services shall encourage the deployment…of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans by utilizing...price cap regulation, regulatory forbearance, measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market, or other regulating methods that remove barriers to infrastructure investment.
2008 – Congress passes the Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA)
Amends Section 706 with annual report requirement that FCC show advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans.
2014 – From 2004 to 2014/15, the FCC, service providers and members of Congress battle back and forth about “Internet Freedom” and “net neutrality” legislation and regulation.
Verizon vs FCC case: DC District Court determines FCC has no authority to enforce net neutrality rules because providers were not identified as “common carriers”.
2015 - President Barack Obama and FCC (Chairman Tom Wheeler) reclassify Internet (broadband) service providers as “common carrier” under Communications Act of 1934 Title II and apply Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
These two actions allow the FCC regulatory jurisdiction over Internet service providers.
Net Neutrality rules prevent providers from:
Blocking content - ISP’s cannot discriminate against any lawful content e.g., websites, apps, e-commerce, etc.
Throttling any data transmissions through its data infrastructure. ISP’s cannot knowingly slow down the transmission of any legal data or content.
Paid Prioritization of data transmissions. ISP’s cannot create “fast lanes” for individuals or organizations who pay a premium and slow lanes for everyone else.
2017 – President Donald Trump and FCC (Chairman Ajit Pai) repeal net neutrality rules and
Title II classification of Internet service providers.
Main public arguments for net neutrality:
Fosters open and fair competition in the online marketplace
Prevents providers from promoting their own products/ services over others
Protects small business owners, content providers and independent service providers
Protects privacy, freedom and anonymity
Protects access to information to all people and not based on race, religion, political affiliation, or economic status
Prevents providers from bundling services
Compared to current Cable TV services
Example – to get access to Facebook or other social media you would have to buy a special package – something like “Social Media Package - $9.99 extra per month”, or Video packages for YouTube or Netflix, or Video Game Package – all at extra, unregulated costs.
Miller Technologies Personal Opinion and Conclusion:
We were not in agreement of imposing regulations back when it was originally proposed in 2004. We felt, at that time, that many smaller ISP’s would not be able to adhere to regulatory compliance mandates. We also did not see how a regulatory body, such as the FCC, would be able to enforce or even audit every single ISP to see if they were following the rules.
During that time period, there were several different options for Internet service providers available to the consumer. That is no longer the case. Most consumers have the choice between two or three providers, if they are lucky. Many consumers only have a single option anymore.
Due to the declining population of small/ independent service providers, it is our opinion now that regulation is a necessity. There have already been multiple instances where the large broadband providers have manipulated and abused their control over data transmission of content through their networks. The repeal of the net neutrality rules, is equivalent to telling the few remaining providers, in control of 99% of the Internet, that it is okay to control and influence data transmissions and content to the American people and Internet community without restriction.
We do, however, feel that the net neutrality rules only handle a portion of the issue. They lack provisions for content providers and the interconnection between the content providers and the service providers. There are huge gaps in ensuring equal and fair access, privacy and control over content from organizations such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc.
There is also a lack of distinction on where the provider status begins and ends. For instance, organizations, such as Amazon, provide content, retail platforms, as well as, e-commerce and hosting services. For example, if I have my actual Internet service through Comcast, but all my data, e-commerce and hosting services are through Amazon, what are the provisions that state where the regulations apply and where they do not?
The FCC, under Chairman Tom Wheeler and President Obama, were unable to get the original net neutrality rules approved through the normal channels of Congress and